Reply 1988 review: The Reason I Can’t Move on

Reply 1988 series, It doesn’t matter how late you are to the Ssangmundong party as long as you get there somehow. Other than it being the only K-drama I’ve written about, Reply 1988 review will be different from my other articles like The themes that made Whisper of the heart or my write-up on The Sound of Metal.

Reply/Answer Me 1988 is a 2015 K-drama that has been making people feel all sorts of ways since it aired. Five years and two marathons later, I finally understand what the hype is all about. A journey comprising 20 episodes that once you’re done, you’ll feel like the 6th member of the Ssangmundong squad. Nothing could’ve prepared me for the tears and fits of laughter this show was going to bring. And it didn’t take me long to deem it don’t-move-from-the-bed-if-not-to-eat-or-pee bingeable.

Reply 1988 Party
Reply 1988 Review Source: Reply/Answer Me 1988

Somewhere between a scene that has the friends endlessly and hilariously shuffling to and fro in their neighbourhood alley with bowls of side dishes and another one with a dance performance to a song by the first K-pop boy group that was all the rave back in the late 80s, I realized the impact this show was going to have on me. An impact that would later have me go “oh boy” as my Instagram explore page explodes with posts of one of the actors in the drama who I’m currently fangirling over. Not to mention, my growing obsession for late 80s and early 90s K-pop music which is also getting out of hand.

Reply 1988 characters
Source: Reply/Answer Me 1988

I have to say; it was partly because of the tastefully-executed 80s pop culture references (everything from music to films and ads, some of which you might miss if you watch the show on Netflix) that I didn’t mind the occasional corniness especially when dealing with themes of teenage love and romance. But what else could this drama deliver if not just ships and nostalgia for a bygone era? Apparently a wholesome mix of familial love, friendship, and lessons on growing up and growing old that will have anyone bawling their eyes out. Our characters are here to teach us about what it is like being a middle child, a sister, a brother, a daughter, a son, and a doting parent, all while going about their inconspicuous lives in a small neighborhood block in Seoul. 

Reply 1988 different problems from the show
Source: Reply/Answer Me 1988

One cannot simply get enough of the dances and shenanigans of the boisterous Ssangmundong gang. This doesn’t leave out the parents who are equally enthralled by the good-looking singers and actors seen on their small TV screens. The characters imitating their favorite stars and shows followed by even funnier reactions of those around is just one of the many reasons to love them.

Some of the soapy shots of few romantic scenes may not sit well with most K-drama non-enthusiasts, but the show doesn’t give you much to despise as there are no rich villains or evil mother-in-laws (many agree that these are common K-drama tropes). The only villain here is the stylist responsible for the horrible fake perms worn by the three neighborhood ajummas which honestly took some getting used to.

Reply 1988 Romance
Source: Reply/Answer Me 1988

But despite what I say about the dramatized scenes, I enjoyed the love and romance portrayed and the journey to its realization just as much as I loved the rest of the themes. Something my 18-year-old self, who would have never guessed the difference between a crush, an infatuation and love, could get behind. I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t get excited over the idea of a “mystery husband” with clues which the writers cleverly put together for the audience right from the get-go. It was one of the things that got me hooked to the show early on.

Reply 1988 scene from the series
Source: Reply/Answer Me 1988

Throughout the show, we see the childhood friends devour food, latest trends and music, movies, adult videos, high teen romance novels, comic books, and more, as they transition from hanging out over juice and ramen to beer and soju. You can count on Producing Director (PD) Shin Won Ho to take extra care of every little detail shown in his larger-than-life frames. While half-peeled posters tell the story of a developing country, food is used to reveal mood, character, emotions, and societal status of the characters.

Source: Reply/Answer Me 1988

Although the previous instalments of the Reply series (Reply 1997, Reply 1994) received decent reviews and praise, it is PD Shin’s later projects including Reply 1988 Film and the Netflix Originals Prison Playbook and Hospital Playlist that really showcased his directing prowess. The medical drama, Hospital Playlist, takes a more mature approach to family ties and relationships as the characters bond over music and food while Prison Playbook, a dark comedy, is all about consequences with an emphasis on the harsh realities of substance abuse. Both hilarious in their own right, PD Shin seems to enjoy jumping back to his magnum opus leaving fun Easter eggs for Reply ‘88 fans to catch. Even he can’t move on, so how can we?

Reply 1988 review Source: Reply/Answer Me 1988 film

As crazy as it sounds, Reply 1988 Film has left me longing for a decade I never saw, in a country I’ll probably never visit. Since I’m a 90s born, this misplaced nostalgia must have something to do with the fact that some semblance of Korea’s cutting-edge late 80s arrived about a decade late in the place I grew up. Or so I thought.

No, the drama doesn’t just take us back in time; it takes us back home. Although true that the show is heavily depicting a pivotal era in South Korea, we are still bound by its universality and timelessness. Stripping the show of its fluff and plot, all you’re left with are the sibling rivalries, funny life hacks, silly gags, infamous dad jokes, cringy diary entries, mixed tapes, love letters, and all the lame shit you thought were cool growing up. Things that you and your friends and family grew out of at some point.  

Have you seen the show yet? What do you think?

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Sources: Koreaboo, Netflix, and Twitter
Featured Image: Official poster of the show

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